Life Science, Healthcare Academics Unite Against Academic Boycotts

For Comment: Rob Leikind; (617) 794-3279; leikindr@ajc.org

April 13, 2017 – Boston – More than 100 prominent life science and healthcare academics in Greater Boston have signed a statement opposing academic boycotts, including those directed against Israeli universities and academics by the BDS (Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment) movement. The full statement is available at www.ajcnewengland.org/stopacademicboycotts.

Signers of the document include a Nobel Prize recipient, 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences, medical school deans, hospital CEOs, former university Presidents, recipients of the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, recipients of the Breakthrough Prize in the Life Sciences, Howard Hughes Medical Investigators and many of the world’s leading researchers and life science and healthcare leaders.

Academics involved in the life sciences and healthcare cooperate with colleagues around the world to develop life-saving treatments. For example, institutions throughout Massachusetts and all of the United States work closely with Israeli scientists to find cures for a wide range of diseases. According to Dr. Matthew Meyerson, one of the organizers of this initiative, Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Center for Genome Discovery at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute,

“Those of us who operate within academic environments understand that free and open discussion is the fuel that drives learning, research and discovery. Academic boycotts would undermine this discourse and place the work of many academics – especially those of us who work in the life sciences and healthcare - at risk.”

A second organizer of the initiative, Dr. Jeffrey Kuvin, Professor of Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College and Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, noted that:

“Diseases do not recognize international borders or politics. Healthcare and life science academics work with colleagues from across the globe to expand scientific knowledge and save lives. Inhibiting the respectful exchange of ideas undermines our capacity for important discoveries. We have a responsibility to ensure that this does not happen.”

According to Jonathan Dorfman and Rob Leikind, respectively President and Director of AJC New England,

“The academic boycott movement is being led by activists dedicated to BDS. They hope that by undermining the free exchange of information and ideas they can advance their narrow political interests – the demonization and isolation of Israel. These highly suspect initiatives could do lasting harm to our universities, while fueling polarization and extremism. The signers of this letter are courageously defending the democratic principles that guide our universities.”

Numerous university Presidents have publicly rejected academic boycotts. They have been joined by academic associations, such as the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). But this is the first time leading scholars from a single area of academic life have come together to voice their concerns.

Founded in 1906, AJC is the global Jewish advocacy organization dedicated to combatting global anti-Semitism and bigotry, advancing Israel’s pursuit of peace and security, enhancing intergroup and interreligious understanding, and promoting democratic values.
 

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